The Path: The Era of the Way
March 30, 2016 1:38 PM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Eddie and Sarah do some specialized Meyerist marriage counselling (spoiler alert, it's weird), while their son Hawk copes with the pressures of attending high school as the ultimate outcast. Meanwhile, Cal has big plans for the future of the movement.

(I saw this episode titled "The Era of the Ladder" in several places, but Hulu's site says "The Era of the Way.")
posted by showbiz_liz (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched both episodes back to back last night, and I can't remember exactly what happened in which episode, so I'll just stick my thoughts here.

-I've got a theory that the Meyerists didn't kill Alison's husband at all - instead, he really did commit suicide, after seeing the same thing Eddie saw during his own vision quest. (Remember, he died in Peru.) "But that would be a totally contrived coincidence," you might say, and I agree - UNLESS someone actually led them both there. Someone who is not actually Eddie's dead brother, but who is instead taking advantage of peoples' 6R drug trips to 'show them the truth' while maintaining plausible deniability. I'm not totally invested in this theory but I think it makes sense (and it seems too early on for the show to be like, yes, the Meyerists have totally murdered people).

-I like/am disturbed by the way Cal uses the doctrine of “always saying what you think in order to unburden yourself” to relentlessly remind Sarah that he still loves her. This is objectively awful behavior from a supposed friend, and in the real world it would be a huge red flag, but since it’s part of the doctrine he can totally get away with it.

-I know a lot of times people hate The Teen Character in shows like this, but so far I kind of love Hawk. He’s so believable to me as a teenage boy - crushingly awkward, delicate, defensive, susceptible to peer pressure but also very stubbornly into the things he believes, ready to be an adult but with no idea how much of a child he still is. Actually he sort of reminds me of the handful of very Christian kids who went to my high school. They had this naiveté that was both sweet and disturbing at the same time. I wound up going to a youth group with one of them a couple of times, because she was so nice and fun and sincere - and if I’d been a believer already, the group would have been super appealing to me and I likely would have kept going, even though in retrospect it was definitely a Weird Church with some cultlike aspects.

-I feel really creepy even asking this question, but it seems important to know for character development reasons: uh, did Cal finish during that blowjob scene? I couldn’t tell if he stopped her before he came. If he did, it means something pretty different for his character than if he didn’t. (Either way, the thing afterward when he told her to go love the other new recruit instead while she was still on her knees was totally disturbing and I loved it a lot. Maybe the cultiest thing we’ve seen him do so far.)

-That scene where Cal is listening to a motivational tape and checking out his expression in the sun visor mirror was maybe my favorite thing in the episode, because it really makes you look at the rest of his actions in a different light. Just a very effective little character detail.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:47 PM on March 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Heyyy... I think Cal was molested as a kid. If you watch his scenes with Mary in that light, his weird behavior makes way more sense, as does his fanatical devotion to Meyerism - if it saved him from something like that, of course he's a true believer!
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:30 PM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

When Cal was watching his eyes in the visor mirror I was literally screaming "watch the road!", but yeah I see what you mean. Everything he does seems so practised or..something?

I think Cal was supposed to have finished with Mary, during the BJ, thus putting an even weirder spin on his whole "now go love that other guy!" thing.
posted by selenized at 6:10 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am enjoying this quite a lot for such a new show. I think it will be one of my weeklies that I look forward to most right now. Wouldn't have heard of it without these posts!

It reminds me a lot of the Leftovers for some reason. Sets up a broad social situation and then lets characters do their things. I hope that the show doesn't reduce to a series of plots about murder mysteries and yellow snake mysteries as it continues.

I didn't like that they had a couple of "this is Cal's other side—get it??" scenes. The beating in episode one was over the top in making him "potentially evil", I felt, and then in this episode there was something but I've already forgotten.

In contrast, Cal's interest in doing the news profile and his dealing with the banker felt like a more naturalistic way of revealing his character and motivations.

I like the show's delayed exposition. Maybe I'm just slow in figuring the things out, but the word "tornado" is not mentioned until the second episode, I don't think, and similarly family relations are established in dialog but not immediately. We see people with scientology-auditing-type devices and not a word is said about them. When I watched the first scene of tornado aftermath a second time, I couldn't figure out if the show was trying to say something about the state of society. Like, why are the Meyerists rescuing people before the "authorities"? Did that mean society was crumbling, that there wasn't much of a social system? Turns out no, but the show was in no rush to clarify this.

The scene with numerous Eddies doing penance in the room was creative and effective.
posted by sylvanshine at 10:57 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

We see people with scientology-auditing-type devices and not a word is said about them.

Ha, I loved that part. I've been fascinated by biofeedback ever since middle school, when one of my friend's moms was a biofeedback therapist.

It's specifically interesting to me because it actually does work - for certain conditions, to a certain degree - but is also subject to a LOT of crackpotty alternative-medicine uses. You'll see it advertised in the same sorts of magazines where you can buy healing crystals and such, but legit psychologists and medical doctors also use it. In that sense, it's kind of a perfect symbol for the broader questions this show seems to want to address.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:20 PM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the scene where Cal was giving the beat down to Mary's father (which I think was in Episode 1, actually) served a double purpose. Yes, it was to show his potential for darkness/violence, but the fact that it lingered so long on the adoring look on Mary's face made us also see the whole thing, and Cal especially, through her eyes. To her, Cal seems like a righteous avenging angel, the angel she had been praying and hoping would come save and rescue her. No wonder she wants to become a part of the Movement. No wonder she tries to thank him/worship him in the church with the bj.

I think the show is working pretty hard, and mostly successfully, at showing the appeal of Meyerism, and the way the members are really trying to help and do good in the world, to heal themselves and their communities. The tornado scenes went a long way toward establishing them as helpers who are actually pretty efficient and effective, more so than actual agencies like FEMA.
posted by fancyoats at 3:32 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

I, too, get a Leftovers kind of vibe from the show, but without the supernatural component. Where I bailed on that one after a few episodes into the second season, The Path seems a little more inherently sustainable to me.

Cal's violent streak seemed to set the tone for him early on. And it looks like he'll be a perfect stand in for Mary's father. Mary seems to have never learned how to relate to men any other way. Cal may have found a loyal soldier to help him solidify his power, since it appears leader Meyer himself may be permanently indisposed(?).

For a bit, it looked like this could possibly be a continuation of Jesse Pinkman's post ABQ life. Poor guy can't catch a break, and the extended therapy session he agreed to looks to be about as effective as it is self reinforcing as any Stasi method, lassoing innocents in its infallibility.

I enjoyed the bedtime story. Pretty heavy stuff to read to the kids before bed

Weird religion looks to be a popular tv fiction to pursue. As I mentioned, The Leftovers seems similar to me in several ways. Most notably, in its humorlessness. This contrasts with HBO's Big Love from several years back, the strength of which I think is due to several of the recurring supporting cast members who were just a joy to watch (Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Kay Place, Grace Zabriskie, Luke Askew, etc) and the general soap-y-ness of the show.

Many questions I look forward to being answered. What exactly did Eddie see that shook his faith so, seeing Meyer's incapacitated state, presumably during hallucinogenic state? What's with the snake? And the eye, for that matter? Will Mary be channeled into a sex tool for Cal? Is Cal the only other significant person aware of Meyer's state? I also found it curious how the cop(?) insisted that nobody got to the disaster site before FEMA.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:27 PM on April 4, 2016

What Eddie saw was the supposed father of Meyerism in a coma, thus everything that Cal is telling him is a lie. This potential revelation has shaken his faith in a religion/cult he previously credited with giving him everything. The snake seemed to me a reference to Christianity (the serpent), but the snake from mythological perspective often represents rebirth and transformation. Considering the scene, however, (the reveal of massive deception) the christian imagery seems more likely.

The eye is pretty much an oppressive symbol of always being watched much like is Eddie is in the Room. Considering Meyer's state and the fact that someone potentially led Eddie to see Meyer like that, it's highly likely more than one person knows about Meyer's situation and that Cal is pretending that Meyer is still conscious to keep a power vacuum from throwing the community into a panic.Or at least that's the kindest interpretation of Cal's behavior. That Cal enjoys being the leader is pretty obvious, but there's also that he's keeping this huge secret from a community founded on, supposedly, transparency and honesty. You see a little bit of stress when Mary first comes to see him at his house.

One thing that amuses me is the name of the cult, Meyerism. I just keep thinking there should be Meyer lemons everywhere.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:35 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

One thing I wonder is how Meyerism would have so much power to keep the young widow basically as a vagabond. The community seems relatively small and contained so how they would do that...
posted by miss-lapin at 3:37 PM on April 4, 2016

One thing I wonder is how Meyerism would have so much power to keep the young widow basically as a vagabond. The community seems relatively small and contained so how they would do that...

I'm assuming she hasn't gone to the police or anyone else for help because she doesn't think she can trust them. And she was in for a while - she said she hadn't seen her grandparents in I think 16 years? She probably doesn't have a great idea of how to function in the 'real world' anymore.

Personally though, I think they didn't actually kill her husband and really did 'just want to talk' when they came to find her (where 'talking' probably means 'persuading her to go into one of those reprogramming rooms for a while,' but whatever.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:43 PM on April 4, 2016

Yeah if "talking" is that reprogramming room, that isn't talking. That's full on psychological breakdown in order to condition. It's an interesting question of how much power they actually have vs how much power they seem to have. Remember they made it to a devastated area before FEMA. How did they know where it is? How did they get through to the area? Was it just plain government oversight or are they more powerful than they appear?
posted by miss-lapin at 10:34 PM on April 4, 2016

It's interesting that most of the adult characters have done some fairly reprehensible crap in the first two eps., often for understandable reasons or with somewhat good intentions. They're pretty fascinating.

I, too, really like Hawk. His girlfriend is a pill, though. That "dangling meat in the face of a vegetarian and wheedling them to eat it" thing or similar stuff is just obnoxious.

Apropos of nothing, man is it enjoyable to hear Hugh Dancy cussing on TV, as the good lord intended!
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:33 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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